It is almost time for the 2022/23 UEFA Champions League final. Before that, let’s have a look at The Hard Tackle’s Team of the Season.
The 2022/23 UEFA Champions League has reached its climax, with Manchester City all set to square up against Inter Milan in the final. It has been yet another exciting season where we have witnessed the biggest clubs in the world fight it out for the biggest European title out there.
Right from the group stages to the semi-finals, we have witnessed nerve-wracking action where the underdogs came out on top at times and at times the powerhouses went wild. We came across some high-quality goals, assists, saves and tackles that have led us to the final two teams.
As the final showdown approaches, it is time to look back at the exceptional individuals that have illuminated the competition and propelled their teams towards glory. We at The Hard Tackle attempt to create a team full of players who have done wonders for their team in the ongoing season.
We have used the 4-3-3 formation to assemble a well-balanced team which features the best players from the 2022/23 season. From heroic goalkeeping exploits to mesmerising attacking displays, these individuals have left an indelible mark on the tournament, captivating fans with their skill, passion, and determination.
GK: Andre Onana
Bastoni: “Dopo la vittoria della Coppa Italia, Onana si è presentato in ritardo di un’ora e mezza per tornare sul pullman. Era troppo felice per la sua prima Coppa Italia. Gli ho commentato la diretta mentre festeggiava: ‘dai Onana fai la doccia che dobbiamo andare’.” 😂⚫️🔵 pic.twitter.com/djqAQhzis6
— Solo ed esclusivamente INTER (@SoloEsclusivInt) June 2, 2023
Manchester City’s Ederson (88.5 Save Percentage) might have a better save percentage (81.1 Save Percentage) than that of Onana. But he has had much to deal with. The Manchester City goalkeeper has only faced 26 shots and conceded four goals.
Meanwhile, Onana has faced 53 shots and has saved 44 of those. He has been the mainstay of Inter Milan team in the goal. And, the 27-year-old is leading the charts for most clean sheets in the ongoing Champions League season.
No doubt that Ederson has done a magnificent job in goal. But the fact that Onana has been called into action more often and has delivered time and again suggests that he should get the nod ahead of the City shot-stooper.
Right-Back: Joao Cancelo
It might have been a very tricky season for the Portuguese international because of all that has happened with Pep Guardiola and the mid-season move to Bayern Munich. But Cancelo has not lost the plot. He has done his bit every time, he was called into action. And his performances have captured the attention of Barcelona and a few other clubs.
In his ten appearances where the 29-year-old has been on the pitch for under 500 minutes, he has racked up five assists. The Portugal international has created numerous opportunities for his forward and he did play a part in City’s dominant run in the Champions League despite parting ways in January.
Centre-Back: Alessandro Bastoni
Alessandro Bastoni (Inter player): "I have seen videos of Rüdiger (against Haaland), we will try to take his example." pic.twitter.com/P4rdQP6SsI
— Madrid Universal (@MadridUniversal) June 5, 2023
The 24-year-old has been putting in impressive shifts throughout the season. He has gone from strength to strength over the past few seasons. And his performances in the ongoing season suggest that the Italian centre-back is amongst the best in the world.
Despite being surrounded by senior pros, the 24-year-old has been a leader in defence. He has led by example and has supported the likes of Francesco Acerbi and Matteo Darmian in the best possible way. Bastoni has contributed all around the park and has maintained a decent passing percentage. He has even created three goals for his teammate in the process.
The Italian might have done wonders throughout the season, but he now faces the ultimate task of containing Erling Haaland in the final.
Centre-Back: Ruben Dias
The likes of Nathan Ake and Manuel Akanji have surely been in the limelight of late. But Dias has once again been the man for the English outfit. The Portugal international, who joined Manchester City back in the summer of 2020, has hardly put a foot wrong over in the ongoing campaign.
He has the second most ball recoveries and the third most successful tackles for Guardiola’s side in the 2022/23 UEFA Champions League. The 26-year-old has maintained a passing accuracy of over 95 in his 11 matches.
He has been a constant feature in Guardiola’s team irrespective of the formation that the Spanish manager has used. Dias’s brilliance in back has made it easy for Guardiola to shift from the conventional 4-3-3 to 3-2-4-1 midway through the season and the results have been phenomenal so far.
Left-Back: Federico Dimarco
Inter Milan’s talented left wing-back Federico Dimarco, has been a standout performer in the 2022/23 season. With five assists to his name, he ranks third in the charts for most assists, showcasing his creative abilities and impact on the team’s attacking play.
Dimarco’s presence on the left flank has been a constant threat to opposing defences, as he consistently makes incisive runs and delivers accurate crosses into the box. The Italian international has been up and down the pitch all day long. His tireless work rate and ability to contribute both defensively and offensively have been key for Inter Milan.
The 25-year-old’s consistent performances have been instrumental in guiding his team to the final of the tournament. He has been a major driving force on the pitch throughout the season. And, their manager will hope, he once again steps up in the biggest game of the season.
Central Defensive Midfielder: Rodri
Rodri has undoubtedly been a driving force behind the team’s dominant run in the Champions League and their journey to the final. Serving as a reliable shield in front of the defence, the Spain international has showcased his exceptional defensive abilities, providing a solid backbone to the team.
Under the guidance of Pep Guardiola, the 26-year-old has emerged as a vital component of Manchester City’s tactics, displaying remarkable reliability and discipline in his play. And, he has been one of the major reasons why the Spanish manager has successfully pulled off the 3-2-4-1 formation.
His outstanding ball recovery skills have been crucial in regaining possession and initiating attacks, making him a formidable force in the midfield. As Manchester City prepare for the final, the Spain international’s contributions will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in their quest for the ultimate treble.
Central Midfielder: Kevin De Bruyne
5 players with most assists under Pep Guardiola 👏
1⃣3⃣6⃣🅰️ Kevin De Bruyne
9⃣4⃣🅰️ Lionel Messi
8⃣5⃣🅰️ Raheem Sterling
6⃣8⃣🅰️ Dani Alves
5⃣9⃣🅰️ Bernardo Silva pic.twitter.com/JGr11E6d6L
— Stats24 (@_Stats24) June 3, 2023
Kevin De Bruyne, the maestro of Manchester City’s midfield is leading the charts for most assists in the 2022/23 UEFA Champions League with an impressive tally of seven. The Belgian international’s chemistry with star striker Erling Haaland has been nothing short of sensational, as the two have combined in breathtaking fashion to devastating effect.
The 31-year-old midfielder’s vision, precise passing, and understanding of Haaland’s movements have consistently brought out the best in the Norwegian sensation, creating numerous scoring opportunities for the team. Moreover, De Bruyne’s contributions extend beyond his assist count, as he has influenced games with goals, his runs and his ability to link up with their forwards.
As Manchester City approach the final, De Bruyne’s influential presence and ability to unlock defences will undoubtedly be crucial in their pursuit of Champions League glory against an Inter Milan team who might end up defending for their lives.
Central Midfielder: Nicolo Barella
Nicolo Barella, the dynamic central midfielder for Inter Milan, has proven to be a true asset throughout their Champions League campaign. Beyond his three well-taken goals, Barella’s impact on the team extends to both his on-the-ball and off-the-ball contributions. In addition, his performances have captured the attention of clubs like Liverpool, Real Madrid, and Barcelona.
His technical prowess and composure on the ball have been instrumental in Inter Milan’s attacking play, as he consistently displays excellent control, vision, and passing range. The 26-year-old has been keen on pushing the opposition back in their own half and is always looking for an attacking pass.
Moreover, Barella’s defensive capabilities have not gone unnoticed, as he actively participates in regaining possession and disrupting the opposition’s rhythm. His work rate, tactical intelligence, and ability to contribute on both ends of the pitch have made him one of Inter Milan’s standout performers. The Italian giants will undoubtedly rely on Barella’s multifaceted abilities to continue their quest for European success.
Right-Winger: Mohamed Salah
Despite his team’s unfortunate elimination in the Round of 16 at the hands of Real Madrid, Salah has rightfully earned his place in the UEFA Champions League Team of the Season for the 2022/23 season.
Throughout the campaign, Salah consistently led from the front, displaying his incredible skill and determination for the Merseyside club. Despite not having the necessary support around him, Salah’s individual brilliance shone through, as he took on the responsibility of driving Liverpool’s attack.
In just eight matches, he found the back of the net on eight occasions and contributed with two crucial assists. His contributions have been nothing short of exceptional, leaving no doubt that Salah remains one of the most formidable attackers in European football. However, the fact that they won’t feature in the UCL next season after failing to qualify will surely hurt the Egyptian genius.
Striker: Erling Haaland
Who's winning the key battles? ⚡️
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) June 7, 2023
Haaland has been the force that could potentially guide Manchester City to the treble if they manage to win the Champions League. Already victorious in the FA Cup and Premier League, Manchester City’s success owes much to the remarkable exploits of the Norwegian international who has broken records for fun.
With an astonishing record of 12 goals and one assist in just 10 Champions League matches, Haaland has firmly established himself as the mainstay of Guardiola’s team. His performances have been nothing short of extraordinary. His clinical finishing, lightning-fast pace, and exceptional positional awareness have made him a nightmare for defenders to handle.
In terms of pure impact, it’s hard to argue that any other forward has outshone Haaland in the 2022/23 season. As Manchester City vie for European glory in the Champions League, the towering striker’s contribution will undoubtedly be vital, as he continues to leave an indelible mark on the footballing landscape at such a young age.
Left-Winger: Vinicius Junior
Vinicius Jr. has been the man for Real Madrid over the past few seasons. Last time around, he had the support of Karim Benzema as the duo guided Los Blancos to their 14th Champions League title. But, in this edition, things did not really work out as planned for the record UCL winners. And, they suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of Manchester City in the second leg of the semi-final.
While Real Madrid might not have fulfilled the objective of winning yet another UCL title, Vinicius Junior surely did his bit. He was by far the best Real Madrid player in the competition scoring seven goals and creating six for his teammates.
His performances helped the team in white come out on top on the majority of the occasions and reach the semi-finals. But, he could not guide them further. However, he deserves his place in the XI on the back of his performances.